Who's The Boss
Running a business is similar to a marriage. It all starts with communication. Communicating with the shop employees, the front office, and the customers are all part of my daily tasks. Failure to communicate with your spouse can end up with one or the other upset about something, or reading into a situation something different than what has actually happened. Sure, there’s a boss in every family, and sometimes you might think it’s you… but, your spouse may have a different opinion about that.
Countless times I've had a car in the shop where a wife or husband has dropped the car off, the repair is done, paid for, and sent on its way, only to have the other spouse call and give me an earful because they weren't told what had transpired. (As if that’s my fault!) Whether it's because of the cost, the time it took, the work that was done, or the fact they weren’t informed... somehow, I'll be the person blamed for all their misfortunes. As we all know... the spouse won’t admit to their better half they said anything to me at the counter similar to, “Yes, I told him to go ahead and do it.” or “I didn't ask him how much, it didn’t matter to me. I told him just get it done.” Yep, heard it all before.
On one particular occasion I had a car in for restoration. These “project” cars come in all kinds of various conditions. Some are a complete car, and the owner has a clear idea what they want done, while others literally come in baskets. This particular job was a basket case for sure. The car had been taken down to the last nut and bolt nearly 5 years earlier, and by the time it made it to my shop nothing but the steering wheel was in place. No doors, no glass, no deck lid, hood, interior, dash, seats, or an engine.
“I need an estimate on what it would take to rewire this car,” the owner tells me.
All I had to go on was the year, the make, and the condition to evaluate what it would take. The car was an older VW Super Beetle, which from a wiring stand point isn't exactly rocket science, but it can get a little complicated if you don't approach the job right.
“I see you've got an aftermarket harness in this box, but it's not complete. Do you have any of the other harness sections for it?” I asked.
“They don't make a harness for it, this is all they offer,” my new customer told me.
“Well, I think there are some better choices than this aftermarket harness you've brought. This is a harness for a dune buggy, and not for a street car. A lot of things are omitted on them that you'll need for a street driven car. Such as turn signals, horn, etc...”
I gave him a price based on reusing the original harnesses that were bundled up in another box. I pulled them out of the box and was in for a shock. They were all cut into several small pieces rather than in the usual sections. I quoted for installing a factory harness… not building one! I needed to find a better way of doing this. In the mean time we went up to the front desk to fill out some paper work. While he was busy with the front office paper work, I got on the internet and did some of my own searching for a replacement harness. It didn't take but a few clicks before I had a “useable” harness that should work... with a little adaptation to the Super Beetle fuse box and ignition.
“Once I see this kit I can give you a better idea of final cost,” I told him.
A week later he was back with the aftermarket harness. The harness wasn't a perfect match, useable yes, but it would need a few modifications. No biggie, just a lot more time involved vs. putting a good factory original harness back in. (It would have been a lot easier to leave the original harness in the car, wadded up out of the way and then reattached after painting.)
I gave him an updated estimate for the work, which in turn, he gave me the go ahead to get started. A few more days went by. I had already started putting in the front harness and part of the interior wiring when he showed up with his wife. I knew something was up.
“I think I'm going to take the car. Your price is too high,” he told me.
It was about then, the wife jumped into the conversation.
“My husband told me you raised the price on him once we got you the harness you wanted,” she told me.
“Yes, the original estimate was to put a “factory” harness in. Now I'm putting in an aftermarket harness that I have to make do with. Rather than try to find a perfect fit, your husband said to go with this. So I did, in fact I've already started on it.”
That's when the husband jumped back into the mix with his two cents, and proceeded to tell the wife how the car was going to be restored with his methods.
The wife turns to me, (ignoring her husband), “How long will it take you to finish it?”
“I figure a week, maybe sooner.”
The husband then gave his wife another lashing about costs, and how his five year long attempt at doing it was only a minor setback in the restoration. She, on the other hand, was about to blow a gasket, but not at me... at her husband. She leans over the counter to me, “Here's my personal cell number and my name, and from now on you call me direct. This has taken far too long to get done, and I want my car back together.”
Ok, I see where this is going. The wife wasn't told the whole story, and what she did hear from her husband didn't add up once she heard it from me.
“Did you bring him any of the lights, dash gauges or any of the other electrical stuff so he can see if they work? NO? Well, you're just an idiot!” she snaps at her arrogant husband. (I could tell me and the “Mrs.” were going to get along just fine.) Totally ignoring her husband, she pulled out a pad and pen and starting jotting down notes on what components I needed, and told me she would have them over to the shop that afternoon and out of her house for good.
After all was said and done, they ended up with a pretty cool restored bug out of the deal, and I got one happy customer... maybe not the hubbie... but, I’m pretty sure I know now … … … who’s the boss in their family.